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New virtual art exhibition brings life with kidney disease into focus

22 July 2020

An art exhibition featuring photographic portraits and compelling stories of kidney patients has launched online, after the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily stalled its tour of public galleries and exhibition spaces across the UK. 

Survivors Life-Unfiltered is a joint creative project by award-winning photographer and director Richard Booth, and kidney patient advocate Maddy Warren. It is jointly funded by Kidney Research UK. Originally intended to be launched for World Kidney Day in mid-March, the exhibition is designed to educate and raise awareness of chronic kidney disease and how it affects people by highlighting inspiring stories of survival. 

It features over 30 participants, from two to 78 years old, who come from all walks of life, including former Premiership footballer and Kidney Research UK ambassador Andy Cole, who is a kidney patient and founder of the Andy Cole Fund. 

Each person or family has been photographed in two settings to show how their outward facing daily lives contrast starkly with the realities of their condition. Surviving with kidney disease requires an enormous investment of time for the rest of people’s lives – time spent each week on dialysis, time spent waiting for a kidney and (if they are lucky) time spent looking after their transplant(s), with many associated complexities. 

Survivors Life Unfiltered Asis Ali
Survivors Life Unfiltered: Asif Ali. Photographer, Richard Booth

Stunning images complemented with stories

Interviews with participants have enabled them to tell their own thought-provoking stories to complement the stunning images; covering topics as diverse as facing mortality, mental health, body image, gratitude, survivor’s guilt, silver linings, reconciling with a “new” normal and facing the fear of living with a life-limiting condition.

Participants found themselves in the group identified as highly vulnerable to Covid-19 so have faced the additional challenge of shielding for the past four months. Many experienced extreme isolation, anxiety and the increased complexity of accessing their life-saving dialysis, ensuring food and medication supplies and maintaining critical transplant monitoring.  

Survivors Life Unfiltered: Rudina Hatipi
Survivors Life Unfiltered: Rudina Hatipi. Photographer: Richard Booth.

Strength, vulnerability and resilience

Maddy Warren, co-creator of the Survivors: Life Unfiltered exhibition and a long-term home dialysis patient said: “Kidney disease can devastate everything from family, relationships and education, to work, socialising and playing a fulfilling role in your community. Being on dialysis can feel like an interminable struggle. It’s a huge effort to just keep surviving an invasive, hugely time-consuming treatment for the rest of your life or until you might have a successful kidney transplant. Yet perversely, the condition also provides a unique perspective into what it means just to be alive. That’s the reason we created our exhibition – to share the amazing stories of strength, vulnerability and resilience of those living with CKD, and to raise awareness of this little-known disease which affects millions.” 

Sandra Currie, chief executive of Kidney Research UK said “We support the exhibition as it brings home the reality and complexity of life with kidney disease in such a striking way. We hope it will encourage people to take notice of this often ignored, often misunderstood condition and are delighted Maddy and Richard have found an alternative way for it to reach the public this year. Maddy is a past trustee of Kidney Research UK, and is a strong advocate for greater investment in research. We hope the stories will raise greater interest in an area of health where research is needed now more than ever.” 

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